that I have, which is giving back to HBCUs and influencing the education of young black women and men.”
Nevertheless, there are some who believed that Pink should have included HBCUs in the first roll out of 33 schools that occurred in June.
Last July, Amelia Reid, a sophomore at Howard University wrote a letter to Pink to express her dismay at the absence of HBCUs in the fall line. Reid, a Pink fan and an employee of Limited Brands, Victoria’s Secret parent company, received from the company a response that she described at the time as “sugarcoated” and dismissive.
Her disappointment materialized into a crusade to bring Pink into the black, and she launched a blog called “HBCU Ladies Wear Victoria’s Secret Pink Too” on Facebook in an effort to encourage people to write to the company and state their dissatisfaction with the HBCU oversight. Reid’s fan base grew significantly and her group has more than 700 members.
Dent contacted Reid through the Facebook group. “I reached out to her because she was a fan of the brand. I wanted her to know that we were not being insensitive,” Dent said at the time.
Dent said that the company had been in contact with many of the HBCUs months prior to Reid’s Facebook site and that she did not play a part in their decision to launch the line of HBCU apparel.
Tina Wells, CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, believes that Reid played a larger role in getting the product to market than Dent will admit.
“I don’t think they anticipated that what she did would get so many young women passionate about this,” Wells says. “It goes to show the power of not just social networking but what happens when the beauty of the Internet puts communication in the hands of consumers to go direct to brands and say, ‘I want something to change.’”
“We didn’t know if this entire concept would work. So in order to test it we started with the schools that were the biggest, had the biggest appetite for collegiate apparel, the biggest revenue generation, and the biggest alumni population,” Dent says. “We weren’t being short sighted we were just seeing if the whole concept would work.”
After learning about the oversight, many black advertisers, including Bob Dale, CEO of Chicago-based R.J. Dale Advertising & Public Relations Inc., said in an interview in July that using school size as criteria for the first round automatically excludes minority populations without considering their spending potential.
“The African American consumer is brand loyal and will spend a lot of money on the brands they love,” Wells said. “It was a huge oversight on their part not to have [included HBCUs initially], but they are doing it now, and I think it is going to be really successful.”
Dent says in the future, the schools they choose won’t necessarily be the bigger schools but the ones that have the most interest. Even before Reid’s Facebook activism, the company set up the Pink Website to get input